It took three attempts for Auckland to finally bag a win in this year's ITM Cup after beating Wellington 21-17 at Westpac Stadium.
It took three attempts for Auckland to finally bag a win in this year's ITM Cup after beating Wellington 21-17 in atrocious weather conditions at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.
Auckland played to the conditions perfectly, with fly-half Gareth Anscombe pinning Wellington in their own half for the majority of the game with some well executed kicks, while the forwards hung on to the ball superbly and smashed their way up-field.
In glorious conditions at Eden Park aganst Canterbury last week Auckland could not hang on to the ball at all, but in the wet at Westpac Stadium everything stuck as the visitors held on to the slippery ball, with only four handing errors made in the entire match.
Auckland and Wellington wings Joe Rokocoko and Jason Woodward had been the form players for their respective teams in the opening week of the competition, but with the rain pouring down in the capital they hardly featured as the real toil was left to the forwards.
Playing his first game for Auckland this season following a heart arrhythmia, Peter Saili looked hungry for work all evening and played a role in Auckland's first try after charging down a kick to give the visitors a lineout 10 metres from the line.
Towering lock Josh Townsend claimed the ball and set up a rolling maul as Auckland drove their way towards the tryline. Prop Charlie Faumuina then hit the ball up before Nathan Hughes, making his first start for Auckland, burrowed over from close range to score after just three minutes.
But as they had been guilty of in their first two matches, Auckland were unable to clear the ball from their own half following the restart as Wellington hit back immediately.
It was former All Black Victor Vito who sparked his side into action, making a half break before offloading to Dane Coles who sent Scott Fugistaller rumbling towards the line. Coles then picked up the ball from the back of the ruck and barged his way over the line to score.
Lions fly-half Lima Sopoaga gave his side the lead with a penalty kick, but three consecutive three pointers to Anscombe had Auckland leading 16-10 two minutes into the second half.
Auckland had all the possession and territory for much of the second half but were unable to fully capitalise on it as Wellington's defence scrambled well, however that soon changed when New Zealand Under-20 star Charles Piutau scored in the corner after 58 minutes.
Following some good build up work by the forwards who made excellent yards up the middle, centre Hadliegh Parkes picked up the ball from the base of the ruck, spun out of one tackle and used his strong leg drive to power out of another before being dragged down.
From there the ball was spun out wide to the backs as Rokocoko passed to Piutau who skipped out of one tackle and crashed over in the corner to score.
At 21-10 with ten minutes to play Auckland looked to have seaed their first victory of the season with ease, but they were given an almighty fright by Wellington who refused to lie down and eventually managed to get themselves into good enough field position from which they scored.
From a five metre scrum, Vito took the ball from the back of the scrum and barrelled into replacement back Piers Francis before lock Jeremy Thrush picked up the ball and crashed over the whitewash.
The Lions then managed to march their way back up the field and just five metres from Auckland's tryline with minutes remaining on the clock, but the visitors managed to earn a penalty on the hooter as Francis kicked the ball into touch to seal Auckland's victory.
Auckland now have an eight day turnaround before facing Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium on July 31.
Tries: Coles, Thrush
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Tries: Hughes, Piutau
Pens: Anscombe 3
Wellington: 15 Apoua Stewart, 14 Jason Woodward, 13 Alapati Leiua, 12 Michael Hobbs, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Piri Weepu/TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Jacob Ellison.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu'u, 17 Arden David-Perrott, 18 Api Naikatini, 19 Brad Shields, 20 TJ Perenara/Frae Wilson, 21 Michael Lealava'a, 22 Lote Raikabula, 23 Whetu Henry.
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Nathan Hughes, 5 Josh Townsend, 4 Steven Luatua, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Richard Haddon, 19 Onosa'i Auva'a, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Piers Francis, 22 George Moala, 23 Angus Ta'avao.